Education is essential to expanding opportunities and improving the quality of life for Americans, beginning with learning that takes place at an early age. The competitiveness of our state and our nation is directly dependent on the quality of education our students receive, from pre-K to high school to college and beyond. I am committed to making certain every Kansas student has access to a quality education that sets them up for success in life.

In order to achieve the best possible educational outcomes, we must work to increase the number of qualified teachers and maintain flexibility for state and local education agencies to tailor education programs to fit the unique needs of students. Additionally, higher education — including career and technical education — is essential for students to reach their full potential in their careers and lives. Kansans deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams through additional education, which often makes higher education a family’s most important investment.

Strong schools are the foundation of strong communities. To achieve success, schools need students with a desire to learn, dedicated teachers, passionate administrators and supportive parents and community members who reinforce the concepts and expectations taught in the classroom. Since parents and teachers know the educational needs of their children and students best, Congress should allow local school districts to determine how to best use federal educational resources.

Accountability is important to ensuring strong schools, but federal initiatives need to contain a degree of flexibility that allows states to operate for the good of their students within the standards of federal law. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which updated the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education when passed in 2001, does not afford sufficient flexibility to Kansas schools. Education is a process that involves more than just preparing for and taking tests. As Kansas ranchers say, “If you want fat cattle, you need to feed them, not just weigh them.” We must prepare students for the challenges of life, not just standardized tests.

As Congress continues to consider the reauthorization of various federal education statutes, I will work to see that reform focuses on removing unnecessary burdens and improving workability for Kansas students, parents and educators while striving for excellence in order to prepare students to thrive in a competitive global economy.